Aug 6, 2013

Bunsen – American Dream

Y’know that moment Michael Douglas picks up the hamburger in “Falling Down”? Well there’s no need to go postal over fast food anymore! Bunsen is here. And the burgers do exactly what it says on the tin. Fresh. Juicy. Tasty. Bunsen have made it so simple, that they’ve printed the menu on a business card. Straight up burgers is the tagline. The mince is Black Aberdeen Angus with just salt and pepper.

Although a regular on Wexford Street, my salady self would never have tried this joint if it weren’t for the boys. Man food. They glee-fully described a proper New York hamburger (I ate green in the Big Apple) and have been giving this place good business of late. The hot waitresses help too! We went for a pair of hamburgers, a cheeseburger, shoestring fries, a Coke, vanilla milkshake and a bottle of IPA.

Service was prompt and surroundings are bare but the food spoke for itself. Unwrapping the burger gave me that Christmas morning feeling, and I wasn’t disappointed. The bun, baked in-house, was the perfect combo of fluffy and chewy. The FXB beef firm but bouncy. The mayo saucy and pickle crispy. My Milkshake was an ice creamy dream. The Bruv’s beer pricey… But Bunsen is the best burger in Dublin.

Bunsen, 36 Wexford Street, Dublin 2 / www.facbook.com/bunsenburger

Aug 3, 2013

Porterhouse – Chowder and Brew

Me and the Bloke were looking for somewhere close to basecamp for a spot of lazy Sunday dinner. No cooking for us, no Siree! The Porterhouse Temple Bar on Parliament Street was ticking all the right boxes so off we went down the cobblestones. Perched at a quiet counter we whet our appetites with a pair of Porterhouse Plain. A deliciously rich and nutty stout, nay porter, with a hint of bitterness.

Live music filtered from upstairs filling the whole place with a feelgood factor. Locals and tourists alike happily tucked into good food. The Porterhouse has a reputation for hearty fare and the menu makes yummy reading. Sunday was the last day of their Belgian Beer & Mussels Festival so I ordered my dessert first. Belgian waffles with vanilla ice cream, chocolate buttons and hot chocolate sauce. Get in!

I went for the seafood chowder, while the Bloke tucked into bangers ‘n’ mash. My chowder was a creamy, salty sea of smoked haddock, cod, mussels and prawns with brown soda bread for buttery dipping. His pork and leek sausages didn’t last long, always a good sign. Maybe it was the beer gravy! My Belgian waffles came with two spoons. Phew… We left the Porterhouse with a waddle in our step.

The Porterhouse Temple Bar, 16 – 18 Parliament Street, Dublin 2 / www.porterhousebrewco.com

Aug 1, 2013

The 51 Bar – What’s Cookin?

So it was to the 51 Bar on Haddington Road for social sustenance last night. Just a hop and a skip from I Love Saturday HQ, twas a lovely evening for a stroll. The gang were shooting the breeze by the door when your fave reporter arrived. I was handed my golden ticket – the ten euro meal and drink deal. Available on weekdays, this menu is one of the best value in town considering the quality scran on offer.

Pints in first, we went for Bulmers on ice, draught Stella and bottles of Canterbury Jack (new from Shepherd Neame. Try it). Thirst quenched, we ordered a pair of cheesy chicken focaccia, two fish and chips, bangers ‘n’ mash and Cajun fillet of salmon. Other dishes included the 51 beef burger, striploin steak and chicken balti. There’s even a chicken penne a la vodka, cooked with Grey Goose. Tipsy!

Our chow was top notch. I munched the fish and chips – Irish cod in a tasty Erdinger batter teamed with chunky chips. Delicious! There was thumbs up all round as more drinks were brought in to refresh the troops. The 51 Bar is a smart sports bar, a great place to spend an evening with friends. Away from the hustle of the city, it offers an impressive range of beers. And of course this unbelievable meal deal.

The 51 Bar, 51 Haddington Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 / www.the51bar.com

Jul 31, 2013

Blur 21 – Teenage Kicks

I remember the very first time I clapped eyes on Damon Albarn. He was staring out from a poster, all big blue eyes, in the first issue of Select magazine. It was summer 1990 and Blur’s first single “She’s So High” had hit the airwaves. That poster ended up on my bedroom wall next to the Manics, Oasis and Pulp. The birth of Britpop had marked the start of my musical teenage years. I still have those records.

Blur 21, a photographic exhibition spanning the band’s history, is on show at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Kilmainham. I felt like I’d got into a time machine. There are some really great photos and album artwork. I was reminded of days spent poring through the NME and Melody Maker, my homework left lonely in the corner. A time when Thursday was Top of the Pops and Saturday night was the Tivoli.

The exhibition chronicles the band’s rise from fresh faced pop tarts to accomplished musicians. The pics, lots by Kevin Cummins and Paul Postle, are snapshots of a pre-bling time before celebrity culture. When London was cool. When Tony Blair was cool. The reason I left for the bright lights, straight outta school. Blur’s music still stands up today. Britpop, like grunge, was one of the last great musical eras.

Blur 21. IMMA, Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin 8 / www.imma.ie

Jul 28, 2013

Vodafone Comedy Festival – Laughin’ in the Rain

Thursday was a funny aul day, everyone going around in their flip flops still in heatwave mode. I wasn’t the only one looking skywards, perplexed at the rain. Until it started pouring… Ah, rain! Anyway it was warm rain, so it was kinda fun. In an outdoor festival sort of way. I was in Iveagh Gardens with my crew for the Vodafone Comedy Festival. Showcasing Irish and international comedians just for a laugh.

We made our way to the bar, natch, and then got our soaked selves inside the Cherrytop tent (a giant nylon cupcake) for Ardal O’Hanlon. I munched on the complimentary jelly beans as MC Fred Cooke got proceedings under way with his hilarious banter. A very funny lad. It’s the eyes that have it. First up was Rory Scovel, a left of centre type of chap (aren’t all comedians?) who entertained us in various guises.

Main man Ardal O’Hanlon tells his jokes in a charming meandering style with well timed punches thrown in. Some of the crowd were stuck in the 90s but O’Hanlon took any Fr.Dougal talk in his stride. His set was centred on family life, politics and religion. And Irishness. Punctuated with his random musings. Good larks. We were back out into the mists for another go at the bar before round two.

We spilled into main marquee the Big Red for Jason Byrne. I hadn’t seen Byrne live, but I was braced for his madcap antics. MC Karl Spain, who I saw at the Laughter Lounge recently, did a super ping pong session with a well oiled heckler. Great ad hoc stuff, considering! Opening was the very talented and totally amusing Daniel Sloss. His whip-smart gags were spot on. A young guy with a bright future.

Bellies hurting with laughter at this point, the stage was set for Jason Byrne. A Marmite character, Byrne is certainly unique. Slapstick and razor sharp, he raised the temperature in the tent with his side splitting carry on. Calling in the audience he caused a few red faces and plenty of laughs. Nobody was safe! Byrne’s high octane performance was just so much fun. Irish comedy at it’s boldest and best.

vodafonecomedy.com / www.ticketmaster.ie

Jul 28, 2013

Simon’s Place – Proper Sambos

Stop at the corner of George’s Street Arcade and you’ll find Simon’s Place. Me and the Bloke often do. I bet you’ve walked past loads of times. Go in! Simon’s Place isn’t shiny and modrin. In fact it’s substance over style. But if your style is fresh sambos, homemade cake and the best cuppa in Dublin, well then… And all to a soundtrack of indie beats. Sit yourself upstairs for people watching, downstairs for a cosy cavern.

The cafe is manned by Simon (who else?) and his team of gorgeous girls, who variously remind me of Amelie or Holly Golightly. They do add a continental chic to the no nonsense Irish menu. Sambos are made up every morning with lovely fluffy wholemeal bread. My fave is avocado. The Bloke likes ham, cheese or egg mayo. Sometimes tuna. Maybe chicken. They’re generously filled and well priced. And yummy!

Homemade soup is simple but delicious. Now to the sweet things. There’s always room in my dessert belly! Sticky cinnamon buns and Simon’s carrot cake are well known treats in this town. The antidote to faceless chain cafes, Simon’s Place is a joy to be in whether alone with a book or munching a deux. Rock’n’roll band poster decor and an easygoing vibe make this one of the best hideaways I know.

Simon’s Place, George’s Street Arcade, Dublin 2

Jul 10, 2013

Ciaran’s Aisling – 10 Days in Dublin

With Dublin once again a-sweltering, me & the Bloke were happy to duck into the cool confines of Smock Alley Theatre today. A lunchtime performance of Ciaran’s Aisling was the occasion. Part of the 10 Days in Dublin goings on, the play is showing every day ’til Saturday. A new play featuring original song compositions, both by Darren Yorke, Ciaran’s Aisling is beautifully haunting.

Ciaran’s death marks the death of tradition. The play opens with ethereal singing from the fabled Aisling and unfolds to reveal a family curse, which has it’s members singing their sorrows at different stages. Darren Yorke has drawn characters that are strong yet broken in their own lamenting. Regrets and harsh realities are argued out in between more wistful moments and the memories of youth.

Having enjoyed a successful run at Players Theatre and ISDA last year, Ciaran’s Aisling is evolving into an accomplished piece. A diamond in the rough, as the play conveys. The gothic surrounds of the Boys School makes a melancholy home for lost souls and provides perfect acoustics for the spellbinding music and singing. Strong players including Ailish Leavy and Liam McCarthy were gripping to watch.

Smock Alley Theatre, 6-7 Lower Exchange Street, Dublin 8 / www.10daysindublin.com

Jul 3, 2013

Flavor – Simply Sublime

Nothing beats a sunny Saturday in Dublin. Especially one with rainbows, hello Pride! It was all happening in my neck of the woods with the post march entertainment in full swing at Merrion Square. I glittered my cheeks and got front of stage for The Amazing Few. Such a great fun band with lead singer, Kieron, getting us into dolphin mode (you had to be there) and shimmying on down to their funky beat.

Eurovision diva Niamh Kavanagh blew the crowd away – whatever it is, she’s got it in spades. I eventually made my way through the beautiful people and into town. The city centre was buzzing with colour. The Bruv and his lady were waiting at the Long Hall on George’s Street and it was a cool sip of fizzy water for me. Food was next on the agenda and we wanted to try somewhere new. Where to?

Flavor on Camden Street has been many different incarnations over the years, but this is by far the best. We were greeted enthusiastically at the door, with a delicious description of their set menu. The list is short but sweet. 18 euro for two courses, 22 euro for three. Flavor’s BYOB service meant we could pop ’round to Whelans next door for some craft beers, but they had a good selection of booze in house too.

The food was superb. Just what the doctor ordered. Melt in the mouth lamb shank in a rich gravy with potato cake and veg, chicken piri piri on a bed of mixed leaves with roast potato and Moroccan chicken on fruity cous cous with mint yogurt. So simple. So good. All served with charming ease. Desserts of Eton mess, banoffee and chocolate brownie came in wine glasses. Get to Flavor as soon as you can.

Flavor, 87 Camden Street, Dublin 2

Jul 3, 2013

Vintage Cocktail Club – Faded Elegance

What else to do on a Friday night, but seek out Dublin’s hot new watering hole? That would be the Vintage Cocktail Club on in Temple Bar then. It’s all exclusive bookings, furtive phone calls and secret doorways. We were enjoying a pint in The Bank, nearby on Dame Street, when we got the nod. It was off to Crown Alley to find adventures new. The Vintage Cocktail Club is working an under the radar buzz.

We were met at the door and ushered up the stairs, peering into swirly carpeted, tassel lamped coves as we went. All very Alice in Wonderland… Deposited in the roof top bar until our table became available, we got stuck into the cocktail menu. The range is impressive with everything from classics to experimental mixtures, in shots, tall or shorts. Top notch ingredients too. No vodka & Coke here, no Sir.

We ordered a Cucumber Cooler, something with pepper, something with elderflower and a special cocktail made up for us. All tasty, well made beverages. We brought them down to the basement and settled into a velvet booth. The vibe is 1920s New York speakeasy with plenty of cool cats who were out to look good. That includes the staff, who were casual but kind. Enjoyable spot for a midnight interlude.

Vintage Cocktail Club, 15 Crown Alley, Dublin 2 / www.vintagecocktailclub.com

Jun 13, 2013

Jo Burger Town – Finger Lickin’ Good

Boiling hot day – check. Outdoorsy lunch – check. Cool – you get the picture! So there we were, me and the Bloke, sat outside at little tables in one of Dublin’s hottest hot spots. Jo Burger on Castle Market was bustling with sun seekers last week, lapping up the chance to dine al fresco. I was in a summer dress, hat, shades and lotsa lotion just incase!  First up was a cuppa, no matter the weather…

Jo Burger is famous for it’s delicious beef burgers, but it was the lunch blackboard that caught my eye. I like a place that combines value with quality and here were some very tasty sandwiches, all around a fiver a pop. Sign me up! I went for the roast chicken with lemon herb mayo while the Bloke chowed down on a BLT with avocado mayo. All washed down with homemade mint and lime soda in a jar. Slurp!

This place, it’s big sister, Jo Burger Rathmines, and it’s hipster cousins BEAR, Crackbird and Skinflint are the babies of local boy Joe Macken. Restaurateur extraordinaire Macken has a knack for foodie zeitgeist, running his joints to a soundtrack of street cred and juicy morsels. He can throw just about anything together – burgers, chicken, pizza – and make it look, feel and taste good. Just add cool kids!

Jo Burger Town, 4/5 Castle Market, Dublin 2 / www.joburger.ie

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